Setting Up Home: Making Inherited Designs Look Deliberate

Setting Up Home: Making Inherited Designs Look Deliberate

Leah Moss
Aug 8, 2011

We've all been there: the ugly carpet, the weird tile, the funky countertops. While some design gurus may tell you to go ahead and demo the whole mess if it's not your style, there is a lot to be said for making the most of what you've got. But, how do you make the most of it?

Don't ignore it, embrace it!

Inevitably there will be something in your home that's not quite to your liking. Sometimes you'll have the resources or a legitimate reason to replace it, but let's face it, most often you won't. Instead of giving in to the common pitfall of ignoring the "something off" and decorating around it, try letting the ugly duckling actually lead the design scheme. Make it your launching point! Not only is it better for the budget, but it's also usually the best choice from an environmental standpoint too—no more stuffing the landfill with perfectly usable (albeit not your style) home items. Plus, embracing what you already have often gives way to some of the more interesting and inventive design statements.

To get started, study the culprit's colors. Then, taking into account the existing color scheme, break out your two best weapons: paint and accessories.

Paint the walls (or a pattern on the walls) either the color of the culprit or one that compliments it. The same goes for your accessories. If it's an avocado green toilet that's weighing down your design spirits, try hanging some botanical prints or try a shower curtain with a green modern trellis pattern. If it's a shocking carpet color that you're trying to work with, use the color elsewhere as an accent such as in a border on your drapes, in a throw pillow, or in a piece of art. Repeating the color will not only take the focus off the offending object, but also make the choice look purposeful and confident rather than unfortunate.

Some of the best examples I've seen hail from Zoe and Trey's Refined Eclectic Georgetown home. When they moved in, they faced the common dilemma of kitchen counters and bathroom tile that were in perfect condition but not perfectly in keeping with their style. Zoe, a DC based designer, chose to make them look deliberate.

In the kitchen (pictures 3, 4) she selected a paint for the cabinets that picked up the dark granite's colors, making the counters blend in rather than standout as the focal point as a natural wood finish or white cabinets would have. Going a step further, she laid down a rug that picked up on the color scheme too. Zoe employed the same tactics in her upstairs bathroom (pictures 1, 2) where she was greeted by earthy pink ceramic tile and a grainy granite vanity top— certainly not terrible in the grand scheme of things, but not her style either. Shifting the focus from the tile, Zoe painted the walls in a bold chevron stripe pattern in the same color pink as the tile. She says that she wouldn't have chosen to have a pink bathroom, but she's certainly put her own spin on what she inherited from the previous owners.

If you'd like to see the rest of Zoe and Trey's home, be sure to check out their full house tour.

The Power of Distraction: Hiding Eyesores in Plain View
Working The Vintage Bathroom Tile
3 Color Directions for Vintage Bathrooms

Images: Leah Moss

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